JEDDAH: An exhibition that uses digital technology to revive the region’s ancient sites and civilizations that have been destroyed or are under threat due to conflict and terrorism opened at the National Museum in Riyadh on April 18.
“Age-Old Cities” tells the story of four historically significant cities that have been devastated by violence: Mosul in Iraq, Palmyra and Aleppo in Syria, and Leptis Magna in Libya.
Using stunning giant-screen projections, virtual reality, archival documents and images, and video testimonials from inhabitants of the affected sites, the immersive exhibition transports visitors back in time and presents the cities as they were in their prime.
It charts their journey from the origins of their ancient civilizations to their modern-day state, and presents plans for their restoration and repair.
The exhibition has been organized by the Ministry of Culture in collaboration with the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. Riyadh is the first stop outside the French capital on the exhibition’s global tour.
The exhibition follows last month’s unveiling of the Kingdom’s new cultural vision, which included the announcement of several initiatives, including a new residency scheme for international artists to practice in the Kingdom and the establishment of the Red Sea International Film Festival.
Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, minister of culture, said: “I am delighted to welcome the ‘Age-Old Cities’ exhibition to Riyadh.
“It highlights the importance of heritage preservation, particularly here in the Middle East, and the vulnerability of some of our historic sites.
“It must be the responsibility of governments to put an end to this damage and neglect, and to put heritage at the heart of action, investment, and policy.
“I will be encouraging my fellow members of government to attend this eye-opening exhibition in our National Museum, and hope to work in the future with partners, governments and experts to do what we can to secure our region’s heritage.”
The exhibition carries a significant message about the importance of preserving and protecting these precious but fragile sites — one which resonates strongly in the week when one of the world’s most-famous heritage sites, Paris’ Notre-Dame Cathedral, went up in flames.
Palestinian author Susan Abulhawa’s ‘Against the Loveless World’ nominated for US literary award
Updated 43 min 1 sec ago
DUBAI: US-Palestinian writer Susan Abulhawa’s book “Against the Loveless World” is among the finalists for the 2020 Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award, organizers announced this week.
The political activist’s book begins in the Hawalli neighborhood of Kuwait. It tells the story of a woman who has as many names as she has homes, moving from place to place as a child of exiles and becoming one herself during the Gulf War.
With her mother, brother, and grandmother Sitti Wasfiyeh, Nahr navigates a life through Kuwait, Jordan, Palestine, a home she knows so little of, and then an Israeli prison.
With dreams of marriage, of her own children and of freedom, Nahr’s fight to survive a world that is intent on testing her lands her in situations that could break the weak.
ANNOUNCING: The finalists for the Athenaeum of Philadelphia Literary Award 2020!
In an unthinkably harsh reality, and one that is a continuous experiment in resilience, Abulhawa pushes to the fore themes of identity and adaptability, posing the question: How can an oppressor know roots when they live by unearthing trees?
Abulhawa is competing against author Michele Harper for her book “The Beauty in Breaking” and writer Kiley Reid for her novel “Such a Fun Age.”
The Athenaeum of Philadelphia museum established its literary award in 1950.
The last two winners for the award in 2019 were British author Edward Posnett and Canadian- American writer Witold Rybczynski for their books “Strange Harvests: The Hidden Histories of Seven Natural Objects” and “Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City” respectively.
Dubai exhibition explores ‘Age of Extreme Self’ in pandemic-hit world
Updated 03 March 2021
Rebecca Anne Proctor
DUBAI: While many industries have slowed over the course of the pandemic, the digital landscape in which we now live has accelerated.
The digital sphere, already fast-tracked before the pandemic through social media and other high-tech elements, is now the focus of our everyday existence. Our life now exists through screens. We work through screens, communicate through screens and connect with others through screens.
We also connect with ourselves through screens, and it is this idea of the self that a pivotal exhibition, “Age of You,” now open at the Jameel Arts Center, says is under threat as a consequence of our widespread digitalization.
The exhibition, which runs at the Dubai center until Aug. 14, was curated by three of the art world’s most respected curators: Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
It is based around the trio’s latest book, “The Extreme Self,” a sequel to their previous title, “The Age of Earthquakes: A Guide to the Extreme Present.” The new book features “13 immersive chapters that chart the remaking of one’s interior world as the external world becomes increasingly uncertain.”
Basar told Arab News: “The world in many ways feels unrecognizable from a year ago when the pandemic began. ‘Age of You’ shows you how, and maybe why that’s the case.”
Set across two of Jameel Art Center’s gallery floors, the new exhibition includes graphic design by Daly & Lyon, and works by more than 70 international visual contributors from the worlds of art, design, filmmaking, photography, technology and electronic music.
“Age of You” also includes new commissions that showcase various aspects of what the curators have termed “the extreme self,” including works by Yuri Pattison, Satoshi Fujiwara and Stephanie Saade, whose work deals with screens, crowds and “emoji-as-surveillance.”
There are also films by Trevor Paglen and NVIDIA Research, and audio “deepfakes” by Vocal Synthesis that are created through artificial intelligence. The works of Jenna Sutela, Sara Cwynar and Victoria Sin explore transforming perceptions of the face and the body, while Craig Green’s collection and campaign for Moncler marries menswear with a machine.
“It seems that ‘Age of You’ is one of very few large-scale museum exhibitions to open anywhere in the world this spring, and its subject matter could not be more timely,” Antonia Carver, Jameel Arts Center director, told Arab News.
“The exhibition has been in development for a number of years, and its first iteration was at MOCA Toronto, with whom we collaborated on the show,” she added. “It addresses issues that are very ‘now’ — how technology is shaping us, how our data has become the global commodity of today and how our new ‘extreme selves’ are shaping our world.
“But through the pandemic, the exhibition became even more urgent and relevant to our age. The curators adapted the show over the past few months, and brought in further discussion of our online lives and our new understandings of the individual and the crowd.”
The works — a mix of emojis, films, bold statements and installations — relay feelings of happiness, sadness, depression and confusion. Among the highlights is Satoshi Fujiwara’s eight-meter-high, 22-meter-long photographic sculpture that has transformed one of the center’s inner gardens into a surreal skyscraper of faces.
There is also Jenna Sutela’s lava lamp heads, which, according to Basar, “remind us that humans are maybe the most alien life forms on earth.”
Another installation, a 10-meter-high outdoor banner, displays a new Russian doll emoji tagged with four words that reiterate our obsession with the self: “Me. You. It. Us.”
As the viewer walks through the exhibition, they feel the same electrifying and confused pulse that screens in everyday life emanate. “Age of You” emphasizes the obvious: This century’s most valuable resource is you — all of your online behaviors turn into the data and algorithms that dictate the movement of our digital sphere.
“‘Age of You’ addresses a global phenomenon, but as the first post-pandemic exhibition addressing this theme, it’s particularly apt that it is staged in the UAE, in the Gulf, and from here, beams out globally,” said Carver.
“It’s well known that here we have a particular affinity with new technologies, high mobile phone usage, and an intense interest in artificial intelligence, and in debating and developing strategies for the future. This show has a dynamic, seductive theme and design, but it’s not an easy one — it challenges each and every one of us to interrogate our lives and our relationships with technology.”
A book on the exhibition is due for release later this spring. The book “will travel, which means the show will travel, too,” Basar said.
The exhibition leaves us with this question: What if the future is dictated by the unintended consequences of who you are and your online actions? Only time and our actions will tell.
Moroccan-British model Nora Attal voices support for Asian community in the US
Updated 03 March 2021
DUBAI: Moroccan-British model Nora Attal took to Instagram this week to speak up about violence against the Asian community in the US in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
She shared an image on her Instagram Stories from a page that reported that a university lecturer was attacked by a racist gang of men in Southampton.
She wrote: “This is disgusting… people are using Asians as a scapegoat to vent their anger.”
Earlier this week, US-Iraqi beauty mogul Huda Kattan also took to Instagram to voice her concerns. “Sadly these alarming events have had very little attention within the media, and that is not okay,” she wrote in a message she shared on her makeup brand Huda Beauty’s Instagram page on Monday.
“Not fully,” replied Zouai. “Don’t give him that much credit! Trust me there r many shady people out here (sic).”
In the song lyrics for “High Highs to Low Lows,” Zouai croons: “Ooh, you wanna help me/Ooh, you wanna fly me out to LA/Dreams you wanna sell me I took a bite/ that’s a gold plate, a gold plate/Timing, he said it’s just bad timing/Lying, all I got from you was silence.”
She also posted a screenshot of a blank iMessage text conversation directed towards the former Jonas Brothers star. “Should I do it?” she asked her 27.6 followers.
Netflix’s new show ‘The Big Day’ is far from reality
Updated 02 March 2021
BANGALORE: Think “Crazy Rich Asians,” “Bling Empire,” “Indian Matchmaking,” and now, “The Big Day.” It would seem that Netflix wants viewers to know that the rich Asian is here to stay, with its new production about India’s multibillion-dollar wedding industry.
The Conde Nast India reality series follows couples as they embark on over-the-top marriage events orchestrated by luxury wedding planners for a rich Indian clientele.
Three 40-minute episodes – each featuring two couples – focuses on the themes of connecting with roots, questioning age-old rituals, and love triumphing over all.
The premise of the show is the rise of an Indian millennial generation that is going against the grain – be it in the choice of a partner, opting for a sustainable wedding, or having a priestess officiate the marriage ceremony.
And it is not only limited to the festivities of the big day; this generation is ready to explore who they are and what they need out of relationships.
Equality in marriage is a common theme through the series – a concept that a patriarchal society such as India still grapples with. Only recently, regional film “The Great Indian Kitchen” was lauded for shining light on gender inequality in Indian marriages.
The redeeming moments in the show come by way of baby boomer parents admitting that commitment is far above rituals and societal pressures that Indian society is so entangled in, even in this day and age.
There are couples who challenge the power dynamics of the great Indian wedding: Why should the groom’s family have absolute power and say, and why is being a headstrong woman with a take-charge attitude considered a bad thing? The couples question age-old rituals and beliefs and retain whatever makes sense to them.
Unfortunately, the modern messages are drowned out by the ostentatious and blatant display of wealth, complete with life-size Faberge eggs and Victorian-themed parties.
It is a glaring privilege that lets the nouveau-riche choose a wedding venue or a partner – a vast majority of the subcontinent does not have that simple privilege. And it is this sad reality that leaves a bad taste in the mouth.